NATIONAL sprinter Daniel Baul ran a blistering 47.1 seconds in the 400m heats of the PNG Air National Track and Field Championships in West New Britain over the weekend.
It was the equal second-fastest hand-held time by any Papua New Guinea athlete, joining Subul Babo and Baobo Duaba-Neuendorf on the list of all-time best.
Despite the challenges posed by venue closures and other Coronavirus restrictions, Athletics PNG (APNG) proudly and successfully staged the championships at Sasi Muthuvel Stadium in Kimbe.
Thanks to PNG Air and Team PNG sponsor Kumul Consolidated Holdings, APNG flew all its top PNG-based athletes to the event to ensure that they had a chance to push for a place in the national team next year.
Baul followed up the superb performance with a time of 47.5s in the final.
Crossing the line after him were Adolf Kauba (48.6s), Jobbie Kinzu (49.2s) and Jonah Theo (49.4s).
With a strong showing at home and in the United States (US), the national men’s 400m relay team looks to be in good shape for the Pacific Mini Games in Saipan, Northern Marianas, next year.
In addition, Baul won the 100m hurdles (15.4s), 400m hurdles (53.8s) and the 200m (21.8s).
In the 200m final, the place-getters were Terrence Talio (21.9s) and Paias Wisil (21.9s), making for an exciting tight finish to the race.
Pre-race favourite Baul ran very relaxed for the first 150m before sprinting past three athletes to claim gold.
Significant performances came from the middle and long distance men with George Yamak recording a personal best in the 1,500m with a time of 4:02.1, moving him even closer to breaking the national record of 4:00.02, held by Sebastian Sena from 1997.
Yamak’s time would have been good enough to win gold in this event in the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
Aquila Turalom was second with a significant personal best time of 4:04.9 which is a five-second improvement to his previous best time of four minutes, nine seconds that he recorded in Port Moresby in July.
Adolf Kauba was the winner of the 800m in a time of 1:56.8 from Samuel Pai (1:57.5) and Aquila Turalom (1:58.4).
Also running faster than the gold-winning time in Apia was Siune Kagl who narrowly won the 5,000m and 10,000m from newcomer Dilu Goiye.
Siune (33:12.7) and Dilu (33:14.6) were much faster than PNG’s gold-winning time in Apia.
PNG swept the medals in that race with Simbai Kaspar taking gold in 33:34.90.
Kagl also won the 5,000m narrowly from Goiye in a time of 15:43.9 which was faster than the gold time of 15:45.54 by French Polynesia’s Samuel Aragaw.
The men’s distance programme is certainly producing good results.
The men’s sprints saw many fine performances from domestic athletes.
It must be remembered that many of PNG’s top athletes are studying in the US.
They must be aware of the strong competition coming from home if they hope to keep their position in the national team.
The list of upcoming sprint contenders is large and impressive.
Wisil is carrying on the family name with his good win the 100m in a time of 10.5s.
He beat Chabby Solomon (10.6s), Terrence Talio (10.7s) and Graham Bai (10.7s).
Johnny Bai, son of former champion and Pacific Games gold medallist Geoffrey Bai, won the 400m event in a time of 52.1s and also took out the Under-18 men’s 100m and won the B-division race in the 200m. In the field events, an outstanding performance came from national javelin record holder Lakona Gerega.
His winning throw of 61.78m was not far off his record of 64.89m.
In the jumps, there were good contests between Eldan Toti and Karo Iga.
Toti won the long jump (6.83m) from Iga (6.54m) while Iga was the high jump winner on countback with a height of 1.90m with the same height for Toti.
In the men’s triple jump, the winner was Rocka Manau with a jump of 13.46m.
As expected, the standout performance for the women came from Toea Wisil who won the 100m in a time of 11.5s.
Behind her came Edna Boafob (12.20s) and Adrine Monagi (12.30s).
Wisil withdrew from the 200m and 400m finals with a sore knee, but showed that she still was the best in the Pacific Islands.
In her absence, Boafob was the winner of the 200m in a time of 25.7s from Monagi (26s) and Serah Neuendorf (26.4s).
Neuendorf had a busy programme competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles.
Monagi was a clear winner in the 100m hurdles in a time of 14.8s.
In the 400m, Boafob won a tight race in 58.30s from Neuendorf (59.80s) and young Patricia Kuku (60.1s), who was the standout performer of WNB’s large contingent.
In the middle-distance events, Scholastica Herman won the 800m (2:28.0) and 1,500m (5:11.50).
The most successful distance runner was Ongan Awa with convincing wins in the 5,000m (20:17.9) and 10,000m (43:46.8).
National record holder Sharon Toako won the discus with a throw of 36.89m and hammer throw national record holder Jackie Traverts won her event with a distance of 30.12m.
Vivian Tutuai was a double winner with good performances in the long jump (4.57m) and triple jump (10.25m).